Biomedical Science

Virologists in the laboratory of Prof. Ulf Dittmer are concerned with the cellular and molecular mechanisms of the immune response to retroviruses. Shortly after infection, cytotoxic T cells usually multiply in great numbers to kill invading viruses or bacteria. After successful abatement of the pathogens, the number of cytotoxic cells must be downregulated to avoid autoimmune diseases as a result of the body's own cells being attacked. This is the role of so-called regulatory T cells (Treg). With the aid of a mouse model, the researchers were able to show that retroviruses trigger the proliferation and propagation of regulating T cells (Treg). As a result of this increased activation of Treg cells, retroviruses can evade the immune response and cause chronic infections.
At the Institute for Medical Microbiology, Prof. Jan Buer and his team are investigating infections and diseases with misguided immune function. Their research on mucosal immunity deals with the immune system of the intestine. Junior Professor Prof. Astrid Westendorf recently showed that different cell populations in the intestine actively communicate with one another, thus sustaining a healthy balance between inflammatory response and tolerance.